Monday, February 06, 2017

KEDi: The Cats of Istanbul

At least cats are considered clean, unlike dirty, lovable dogs. As Turkey tilts closer and closer to Iran, its pets should become nervous. For now, hundreds or maybe thousands of cats run free through the streets of Istanbul and most of the locals find them charming. The bond between felines and humans is examined [while it lasts] in Ceyda Torun’s KEDi (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Apparently, strays have run free throughout Istanbul since its days as a major international port. Cats would hop off during lay-overs and often wind up staying. However, the city really started to embrace the stray population to combat the rats brought out by an ill-fated Ottoman sewer project. At least that is the feline history of Turkey according to graphic novelist Bülent Üstün, whose best-known work was adapted as the film, Bad Cat—so, surely he ought to know.

Torun introduces us to a number of cats, who are frequently anthropomorphized by humans. The people in question are not really owners, per se. They merely stand ready to supply the beasts with food and water whenever they might ask. In some cases, it rather makes sense, such as the waterfront café that sort of adopted the mouser, Little Lion. Frankly, some of these cats probably eat better than half of Turkey.

Frankly, KEDi (as in “here Kedi, Kedi”) is about as review-proof as the next Star Wars movie. You will either come into the film primed to be delighted by the feline creatures or you won’t. Ask yourself how charmed will you be by the site of these fur balls scampering through the streets of Istanbul. Basically, you can think of the film as D.A. Pennebaker’s YouTube cat videos. There is no shortage of strutting and slinking. However, it is hugely impressive how well cinematographer Charlie Wupperman captures the feline action, up-close-and-personal.

Indeed, Torun and Wupperman make the cats and their city look rather charming. It also suggests through its examples there is a bright red line Turkey’s ascendant Islamists would be well-advised not to cross. Pleasant but not nearly as insightful as it presents itself to be, KEDi is recommended for crazy cat ladies when it opens this Friday (2/10) in New York, at the Metrograph.